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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Willow is a wonderful fantasy adventure with lots of intense scenes of battle and conflict, which are often lightened with humor. Expect an evil queen who yells and threatens to kill a baby, plus some scary wildebeests and soldiers who storm a village of innocents -- including kids -- but leave before anyone is seriously hurt. Some battles result in apparent deaths with a little blood, but nothing is lingered on or explicit. A couple monsters are pretty creepy and put beloved characters in peril. In one scene a man gropes at the breast of one of the lead characters who is disguised as a woman. There is some romantic kissing and a hint of infidelity. Also, there is some puerile humor, including use of the word "pee pee," a baby vomiting in a man's face, and gags involving animal feces.
What's the story?
WILLOW (Warwick Davis) is a Nelwyn, a dwarf-like person, who is a farmer and aspiring sorcerer. His children find a baby, a special princess who is the chosen one to bring down the reign of terror by the magical evil queen. The Nelwyn community is frightened by this baby, a Daikini or big person, and commands Willow to return the baby to its kind. The first Nelwyn met is a hooligan named Madmartigan (Val Kilmer). Willow has bonded with the baby and does not trust Madmartigan. These two pair up to save the baby, meeting forest fairies and a kind sorceress along the way. Madmartigan receives a dose of fairy powder, causing him to fall in love with Sorsha, daughter to the evil queen. The powder wears off, but the affection doesn't. In the end, good triumphs over evil; Willow is a hero; and the baby princess is left in the loving arms of Sorsha and Madmartigan.
Is it any good?
For today's Harry Potter generation, a viewing of this movie will surely be of interest. There's no more violence in this film than a child sees in Harry Potter or Star Wars -- in fact, there's probably less. Directed by Ron Howard and written by George Lucas, it's a great film for kids interested in fantasy.
The adventure is easy to follow and full of school-age humor, and two forest fairies provide comedy with their slapstick, strange voices, and snappy one-liners. Lucas' fantasy has interesting-looking characters and villages, gothic castles, and, most of all, magic. There are no big surprises; we know who's good and who's evil. Though parents may want to fast-forward through the fight scenes, Willow is an excellent choice to give young kids a taste of fantasy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters' choices in Willow . Why did the queen want to kill the baby princess? Why was Willow reluctant to take the baby into his home? Why did Madmartigan help Willow and the baby? What do these choices say about the movie's messages?
Talk about the humor in this movie. How do jokes and silly pratfalls lessen the intensity of violence or peril?
What parts of the movie are created by actors, and what parts are created by computer effects? How can you tell?
- In theaters: May 20, 1988
- On DVD or streaming: November 27, 2001
- Cast: Joanne Whalley, Val Kilmer, Warwick Davis
- Director: Ron Howard
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 126 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action violence
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